HOPE – The quiet, consistent support which the late Denver L. “Denny” Dickinson lent to the development of an outdoor classroom and garden on the Hope Academy of Public Service campus was honored Friday in groundbreaking ceremonies for “Denny’s Place.”
More than 50 parents, students, teachers, business and community leaders joined in the ceremony on the southeast corner of the HAPS campus where the earth sciences garden, storage/class structure, and “bee pollinator” garden will be constructed. A banner designating the site and facilities as “Denny’s Place” was presented by Earth and Spacial Technology (EAST) lab students and will hang adjacent to it.
EAST students including Kovel Phillips, Courtland Jackson, Karlie Beck, Jordan Simington, Ashlyn Courtney, Ki Hamilton, and Keller Tomlin participated in developing the concept and site selection.
School board members, HAPS students and administrators, members of the Hempstead County Master Gardeners, and members of the Dickinson family turned the first soil for construction of the project.
Dickinson, of Guernsey, served as a member of the Hope Public Schools Board for 15 years prior to his passing in September.
HAPS Principal Dr. Carol Ann Duke recalled Dickinson’s support for the development of the HAPS campus and unique public service curriculum.
“We’re in the middle of our second year at HAPS,” Dr. Duke said. “If it was not for the vision and hard work of Denny Dickinson, and Kathryn is as much of this, we would not be here.”
She recalled how Dickinson had met with her as the new campus and educational concept was about to open.
“Everybody had warned me what a gruff old cuss he could be,” Duke quipped to laughter from the audience.
But, she said Dickinson was both personally, and as a school board member, staunchly supportive.
Dickinson’s wife, Kathryn, thanked the Hope Public Schools, Master Gardeners program and volunteers who have helped develop the project.
“All of Denny’s friends, our friends and family, we thank you all for being here,” Mrs. Dickinson said.
Master Gardeners project co-chair Nan Wright said the design for the project was derived from a similar project at Nashville Elementary School. Working from that design, the project evolved from a decorative space in front of the campus to a working garden and “outdoor classroom, Wright said.
Wright, Marlon Ward, Darla Irby, Kathryn Dickinson and Jan McKinnon served as co-chairs of the project development for the Master Gardener program.
“This will be for future classes however they want it,” Wright said. “We appreciate all of these people being here today; this is wonderful.”
Participating Master Gardener members included Wright, Ward, Irby, Dickinson, McKinnon, Jane Collums, Rebecca McKamie, Letitia King, Lorie LeJune, and Gary Martin.
The raised bed garden will be configured in the shape of the letter “H” and will be part of a classroom unit that will include a covered “outdoor classroom” with two 4x4 storage units as well as benches for student use, Wright said.
She said the garden will feature at least six planting spaces which will be surrounded in the total configuration by “paver” stones sponsored by donors to the project. Single “pavers” are $5 each and groups of five may be obtained for $20. The pavers will be painted and marked with the name and business logo of sponsoring donors.
Irrigation plumbing for the gardens has already been planned and a water source established to provide moisture for the gardens.
Mrs. Ward said later the Master Gardeners credit Dickinson, along with Bruce Ward, Hempstead County Agricultural Extension Agent Steven Sheets and HPS employees Maurice Henry, John Johnson, and Scott Hardy with overseeing and advising on preparation and site work necessary to bring the project to a starting point.
Ward said the Master Gardener program also contributed the first $1,300 toward the project.
The outdoor classroom will require gardening tools and implements for students to use in producing selected crops, and Duke said donations of tools and implements or funds for their purchase will be accepted. She said “vintage” tools and implements will be used to decorate the student space and provide historical insight for students.
Donations toward the project may be arranged by contacting Duke at 870-722-2700, ext. 401, during regular school hours.